Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Craft beer week

American Craft Beer Week began on Monday ... the appreciation of better beer.

If you recall, we prevailed – unsuccessfully, unfortunately – upon Gov. Corzine's office for a proclamation for a New Jersey Craft Beer Week to coincide with the seven-day observance authorized by Congress.

Make no mistake, it was a longshot for one voice. So it comes as no surprise that you can take a spin over to the governor's Web site and not see a link to a press release (FYI: Former Gov. Whitman declared July beer month in New Jersey back in 2000, so Corzine wouldn't exactly have been breaking ground here, just effortlessly being a friend to a state industry, if he had signed a proclamation). The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild should have stepped up with a lobby campaign (to be fair, we're guessing the guild didn't try, and we won't mind being corrected if it did) to get a state observance.

You may think we're making something out of nothing, but Craft Beer Week represents a chance for solidarity and marketing. Neither sound all that compelling, but they are important and represent, we argue, the underpinnings of keeping a message about Jersey-brewed beer before the public.

And that, too, is important, especially since the guild, by and large, holds just a couple (sometimes) of festivals a year under its banner. That's hardly much reinforcement in the public's mind that New Jersey has some great beer made within its borders.

Meanwhile, promoters in Atlantic City hold the state's biggest (but hardly the best) beer festival, and the High Street Grill in Mount Holly is on course for a second 2009 festival, set for this month. Neither are Jersey-beer centric (although Jersey beers have been on those fests' lineups). Quite the contrary, since those fests pull in beers (via distributors) from across the country and around the world, they're sort of eating the guild's lunch, stealing its thunder (pick a metaphor).

That may sound like protectionist talk, but think about it. Someone's brand is getting built up with some exposure. Shouldn't it be the home team's?

Our suggestion: Print advertising rates are probably very negotiable right now (revenues are that soft) at the bigger newspapers. So the guild should begin a regular ad campaign promoting Jersey-brewed beer, à la the campaign used by the state Agriculture Department (the well-known Jersey Fresh produce slogan) ... Think Jersey, drink Jersey, perhaps?

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